Unveils Intelligence Oversight Legislation at YearlyKos Convention
Las Vegas, NV–Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today delivered the keynote address at the YearlyKos Convention in Las, Vegas, NV, announcing a new initiative to ensure the Bush Administration speaks honestly and accurately to the American people about the challenge Iran poses.With the Bush administration stepping up its public and private diplomacy with Iran, Reid announced that Democrats would take new steps to hold senior Bush administration officials accountable for their statements on Iran, just like they have fought to hold them accountable for their misleading statements about the Iraq war.
"All of us – as Americans – need to review how the Bush Administration cherrypicked and hyped the case for war with Iraq to sell it to Congress and the American people, so we can make sure it never happens again," said Reid. More than two years after the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee launched its "Phase 2" investigation of pre-war Iraq intelligence and more than 8 months after Democrats sent the Senate into an extraordinary closed session to force action on Phase 2, only three of the five parts of phase 2 are drawing nearer to completion. Key Administration officials have still not been interviewed, and key documents such as Scooter Libby’s first draft of Powell’s speech to the United Nations, apparently still have not been provided to the committee.
Looking ahead to Iran and other national security challenges, Reid said: "We face many threats – threats that have grown worse – because this administration took its eye off the ball. We must address these threats, but we must never allow this Administration or any future Administration to manipulate or mislead for ideological or political reasons."
Reid’s legislation, the Iran Intelligence Oversight Act, would:
- Require an updated national intelligence estimate on Iran with an unclassified summary available to inform debate by Congress and the American people
- Require the President to report to Congress on his objectives regarding Iran and his strategy for achieving them
- Require the Director of National Intelligence to show Congress that he has a process to review statements about Iran and other key challenges to our national security made by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and key cabinet officials to ensure they are consistent with the consensus assessments of professional intelligence analysts.
"Next week, I will introduce new legislation to ensure that Americans are not misled again about a national security challenge. The bill will require intelligence community professionals to monitor and certify administration statements about the threat posed by Iran," Reid said of the legislation. "Every thing they say will have to be supported by facts. I have no doubt the White House won’t like this requirement, but after what happened in Iraq, the American people deserve nothing less."
The YearlyKos Convention is the first-ever national meeting of the online progressive community, a community that has been critical to Democrats’ efforts to protect the American people from the divisive and destructive Bush Republican agenda. Before the speech, Senator Reid met with the top ten bloggers from across the nation to discuss the road ahead in fighting for a new direction for America.
After being introduced by Diana Smith, a Las Vegas resident, former teacher, and chair of the Nevada Caucus of Progressive Democrats of America, Reid acknowledged the success of the blogs in correcting the record, including standing against the Swift Boat smear of John Kerry in 2004, defending Valarie Plame and Joe Wilson against Bush Administration attacks, and helping to defeat the privatization of Social Security and the Nuclear Option.
He also asked bloggers to take real action in the coming months.
First, he asked bloggers to continue to call Republicans out on their divisive political games, and to ensure what happened in 2004 will not happen in 2006.
Second, he asked them to help make it clear where Democrats stand on the key issues facing Americans and dispel the urban myth perpetuated by Republicans that Democrats don’t stand for anything.
Reid said, "We don’t have a bully-pulpit, but we do have you. We need you to be our megaphone…and, we believe Iraq is this President’s war, and it’s time for him–not the president who follows, as President Bush has suggested–to find a way to turn Iraq over to Iraqis, so our troops can begin to come home and America can refocus its attention on destroying Al Qaeda and addressing the threats that have grown on the Bush Administration’s watch.
Third, Reid asked the audience to never give up and to get out into their communities and ensure that Americans understand the need for a new direction in America.
Reid said: "If we’re going to change the direction of this country, it requires the hard work of us all. I’ve talked tonight about the power you have online, but each of use has power off-line as well."
The text of Senator Reid’s speech, as prepared for delivery, is attached.
YearlyKos Keynote Address, As Prepared for Delivery
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Markos and Jerome begin their book with a quote from Ghandi:
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
As a former boxer, I know a fighter–and a winner–when I see one, and as Senate Democratic Leader, I’m glad there are so many of you fighting on our side. Whether it’s spreading the truth or fighting for what’s right, you have made a tremendous difference for our country and the Democratic Party.
It was you who was quick to stand against the Swift Boat Smear of John Kerry.
It was you who defended Valarie Plame and Joe Wilson against Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove.
It was you who helped Democrats win key victories in Social Security and the Nuclear Option.
And it is you–today–who are making sure the truth is heard.
Tonight, I’d like to ask you to keep up the fight.
The Internet has changed the way we live, but one of the things that has impressed me the most is how it has given Bloggers like you the power to spread information.
In fact, I believe with the Internet and Blogs we are witnessing a revolution in communications – on par with the advent of the printing press in the 15th Century.
The printing press wrestled control of information away from a powerful few – namely Kings and the Church. And it is the same with the Internet today.
Prior to the explosion of Blogs, our national debate was controlled by a handful of media conglomerates. Like the Kings and the Church of old, these powerful entities controlled what news and information made it into the public square.
But not anymore. Not with the Internet.
To get heard today, you don’t need money. Just good ideas. For the price of a computer and high-speed Internet, you can have a Printing Press, TV Studio and Radio Tower in one.
The Internet has put the power of information in our hands, and now it’s time we use it.
In the coming months, America faces a great choice. And for such a great choice, the question we must answer is simple.
Do we–as a country–unite and change direction towards a better future for us all, or do we continue in the wrong direction of the last six years, a direction that has resulted in three dollar gas, a mess in Iraq, a crisis in health care, and incompetence in government?
You and I have an answer to that question.
Unfortunately, Republicans do too.
Washington Republicans appear to have no interest in changing direction, or taking on the issues before us. Their only goal is to stay in power–even if it jeopardizes the future for us all.
You see, Bush Republicans know what we all know. And that’s if Americans focus on real issues in this country, Republicans are in trouble. So instead of finding ways to fix health care or make progress on energy, they plan to spend the coming months stoking the fears that divide us, and distracting us from the problems at hand.
Look at the Senate, where the Republican agenda consists of Red Herrings like flag burning, the Estate Tax, and Gay Marriage.
It’s the same, old, divisive playbook they always use–only this time, it doesn’t take into account the new team competing against them on the field.
Of course, when Republicans aren’t busy dividing the country and playing to our fears, they’re busy rubber-stamping the agenda of George W. Bush.
I read an article in the Boston Globe awhile back. It was filled with some astounding facts.
When President Clinton was in office, the Republican Congress required his administration to spend 140 hours testifying about the Christmas cards it sent.
During the Clinton years, the House Government Reforms Committee issued 1,052 subpoenas to the administration and DNC.
Now, how many hours do you think they logged regarding Abu Ghraib?
How many hours do you think they’ve asked President Bush to spend justifying his actions in Iraq?
The facts don’t lie, and neither do the results.
Because Congressional Republicans rubber-stamped the Bush energy policy that only Exxon-Mobil loves, Big Oil has accumulated billions in profits while families have paid an Arm, Leg and Their First Born at the pump.
Because Congressional Republicans rubber-stamped the handpicked judges of the Bush radical right, the federal Bench is filled with judges who are turning back the clock on equal rights and turning the constitution on its head.
And because Republicans have rubber-stamped this President every step of the way, the rights of Americans have been trampled at home and our troops have been put at risk in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Congressional Republicans have abandoned their obligation to our troops.
No real investigations into why they didn’t have body armor.
No real investigations into why they didn’t have a plan to win the peace.
And no real investigation into the manipulation of pre-war intelligence– which is why Democrats shut the Senate down.
I’m proud of the actions we took last November. Up until that point, Republicans had done next to nothing to investigate the White House and its manipulation of intelligence in the run-up to war.
So, with the world watching, we embarrassed them into action, and I closed the Senate.
Since then, the Intelligence Committee and its Chairman, Pat Roberts of Kansas, have begun to inch in the right direction, but even today, they’re dragging their feet.
Back in November, we were promised a comprehensive, five part report on pre-war intelligence, and from what I understand, we’ll soon get three of them: one dealing with Ahmed Chalabi, one dealing with the accuracy of intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction, and one dealing with our predictions about post-War Iraq.
Now, I’m interested in the results of those findings, but come on, we need this Committee to get on with its work!
Anyone who watches CNN knows that Chalabi was wrong, our intelligence about WMDs was wrong, and the Administration ignored predictions about post-War Iraq.
What we need to know–and still don’t know today–is whether the White House intentionally cherrypicked and politicized intelligence to sell the war. I think we know where the evidence points.
But tonight, let me be clear: I’m not pushing for these answers because I am a Democrat, and I’m not singling out Chairman Roberts because he is a Republican.
All of us–as Americans–need to know if we were intentionally misled to war in Iraq, so we can make sure it never happens again.
There have been too many lives lost–39 in Nevada–and too much money spent for us to get it wrong again.
We face many threats–threats that have grown worse–because this administration took its eye off the ball. We must address these threats, but we must not be manipulated into acting for ideological or political gain.
Next week, I will introduce new legislation that will require intelligence community professionals to monitor and back-up in writing every word administration officials utter about Iran.
Every thing they say will have to be supported by facts. I have no doubt the White House won’t like this requirement, but after what they did in Iraq, the American people deserve nothing less.
Democrats will continue to hold the President’s feet to the fire, but what we really need–if we’re going remove the rubber-stamp from Washington–is the help of everyone here.
Tonight I have a game plan for all of us, and it requires three things.
First, call Republicans on their silly, political games.
We know Republicans are going to attack with everything they have. They do it every year. But this time, it’s going to be different.
Because of you, no attack will go unanswered.
Because of you, no lie will avoid the truth.
And because of you, no distortion will become a distraction to Democrats.
Under my watch–and with your power–what happened in 2004 will never happen again.
When Republicans start their attack machine, we’ll shut it down with the facts.
Second, make it clear where Democrats stand.
There’s an urban myth in Washington that Democrats don’t stand for anything. Like all urban myths, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
This summer, we need you to break it.
Republicans are in the majority. They set the national agenda.
We don’t have a bully-pulpit, but we do have you. We need you to be our megaphone.
Democrats may be the minority in Congress, but we speak for the majority of Americans.
We believe in honest leadership, and cleaning up the corruption of Jack Abramoff and waste of Halliburton.
We believe in keeping America safe and secure, and have a tough AND smart plan for REAL security, not trumped up threats.
We believe in energy independence by the year 2020, so we can protect consumers at the pump and reduce the causes of global warming by tapping into the renewable energies like we have in Nevada.
We believe in stem cell research, an affordable college education, fixing Medicare Part D.
And we believe Iraq is THIS President’s war, and it’s time for him–not the president who follows, as President Bush has suggested–to find a way to turn Iraq over to Iraqis, so our troops can begin to come home and America can refocus its attention on destroying Al Qaeda and addressing the threats that have grown on the Bush Administration’s watch.
With Zarqawi gone and the cabinet filled, we need more than platitudes next week when the President convenes a conference with Iraq’s leaders and his War Cabinet. He must present a concrete plan – a plan for Iraqis to take control of their own security.
Last year, the United States Congress on a bipartisan basis passed legislation demanding President Bush make 2006 the year of significant transition in Iraq. We are approaching the mid-point of 2006, but instead of transitioning out, President Bush has sent more troops in to handle the surge in violence
Our troops and the American people have been exceedingly patient as mileposts in Iraq have passed without progress. The President is asking too much if he expects us to do it again.
Finally tonight, I ask you to never give up, not even for a day.
If we’re going to change the direction of our country, it requires the hard work of us all.
I’ve talked tonight about the power you have online, but each of use has power off-line as well.
In the coming months, get out in your communities, talk to your neighbors, and make sure everyone recognizes that together, we can take America in a new direction.
Together, we can reject the agenda of Distract, Distort and Divide, and embrace a new direction for us all.
We know what’s coming.
We know our game plan.
Now, let’s get out there and get to work.